When interacting with clients, I discovered that many have misconceptions about sinus problems and how to deal with them. Common sinus problems range from allergies to infections, with symptoms such as a runny nose, headaches and a fuzzy head. Determining proper treatment and prevention is possible once we understand the root causes of these common sinus problems.
Common causes for a sinus problem to occur
1. Irritants – A foreign substance that the system failed to eliminate.
2. Allergies – A true allergic reaction to a substance.
3. Infection – Can be the end result of an allergy or irritant. Most of the time this is bacterial but it can also be viral.
The Nasal Cavity, Sinus, and Their Functions
The respiratory system is responsible to bring oxygen to our lungs and eliminate carbon dioxide. Before oxygen reaches the lungs, the air we inhale goes through a filtration, moisture and temperature control systems, done through the nasal cavity and sinuses respectively.
Within the nasal cavity, the walls are rich with blood vessels and mucus-secreting glands. While the blood within the vessel regulates the temperature of the air you breathe, the sticky mucus secreted from our glands traps material that passes through the nostril hairs and provides moisture regulation to the air. As the air is moistened, the mucus surface becomes dryer and forms the semisolid material in which particulate matter is trapped. Later, this material is carried through the posterior exit of the nasal cavity and is either swallowed or spat out. Now the clean air at the ideal temperature and moisture will reach the lungs.
The sinuses are hollow chambers in the bones of the skull lined with tissue similar to that in the nasal cavity. These chambers are connected to the nasal cavity by narrow ducts and when these canals are clogged, mucus produced inside our sinuses cannot properly drain out. Also, excessive mucus may be produced when an irritant or allergant triggers the system in an attempt to fight it off, which leads to swelling and may result in an infection. The pressure inside the sinuses then increases, creating congestion around the eyes and head area.
Now that we understand how hard our respiratory system works to provide ideally clean and moist air to enrich our lungs, we can look at two prime examples of common habits in our modern lifestyle that interfere with this natural function.
1. We tend to close all of our windows and doors to keep in “clean air” when in fact indoor pollution is much worse to breathe than the air outside our home.
2. We also tend to constantly regulate indoor temperature using heaters and air conditioning, which over dries the air we breathe.
There are a few simple ways to improve air quality in our environment and avoid clogging our sinuses, in order to breathe easy:
1. Keep the house clean
a. Eliminate clutter.
b. Open the windows to keep good air circulation day and night.
c. Eliminate trap zones like carpets and any surface that collects dust.
2. When using A/C and/or combustible heaters (i.e., central air, wood stoves, fireplaces), use a humidifier to provide constant moisture.
3. At night use a radiator heater in the bedroom. It is cheap to buy, easy to use, indestructible and VERY safe, even around children.
4. Take a long hot shower every night to provide steam to loosen the matter built up in your nasal cavity, and then blow your nose. Now would be a good time to pick your nose clean every night!
5. Reduce foods that cause inflammation such as dairy, sugar and processed foods.
6. Stop using decongestants regularly. Many decongestant products will over-dry the sinus and actually prevent the body from performing its natural functions.
1. Anti-inflammatory Remedies
Since most sinus problems usually result from swelling of the ducts connecting them to the nasal cavity, reducing inflammation will always be beneficial. Medications such as Advil or Aleve are available over the counter, or your doctor may prescribe a steroidal nasal spray in an acute situation.
Fill a large bowl or pitcher with hot water and mix 5 drops of tea tree oil or eucalyptus essential oil and inhale SLOWLY. The steam provides moisture and breaks down caked solids in the nasal cavity, while the oils help eliminate bacteria and mold. Be careful not to burn yourself while you inhale!
These should be used as little as possible because they over dry the system, once this will happen it can cause the system to fail. . I.e. Sudafed
These should be used as prescribed. Doctors may suggest to take anti-histamines along with decongestants before taking a flight.
This should be used only in the case of bacterial infections and taken with a probiotic.